William Shakespeare, in “Hamlet,” wrote the famous question “To be, or not to be.”
For us, the question was to go or not to go? The answer was to go, so once again this year, my wife and I are in the Washington, D.C., area spending Thanksgiving with our daughters and their families.
Being with family on Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any other holiday, seems especially important. Sharing with them a holiday of sharing is particularly appropriate.
And being in Washington is always exciting and exhilarating. As the late President Kennedy was quoted as saying, “Washington is truly an all American city. It combines the charm of the North with the industry of the South.”
Of course that was generations ago and while heavy industry is not a big factor in the D.C. area, such other activities as lobbying and tourism have helped the population of the Metropolitan Capital Area to grow to more than five million, many if not most resulting from the government‘s presence.
Not surprising, tourists are always impressed not only with the historic sites, but with the friendliness of the locals. This, of course, belies another famous presidential quote. This from Harry Truman who said, “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.” He did — a cocker spaniel named Feller.
The Obamas have a Portugese water dog named Bo. It is fun to see him frolicking with the First Family on the White House lawn. However, I don’t know if there is any truth to the rumor that he proved a valuable advisor to the president during last week’s meetings in Lisbon with our European Union and NATO partners.
If he did, he would not have been the first First Dog to have played an important role in the White House.
Probably the most famous White House dogs were FDR’s Fala and Richard Nixon’s Checker which, at the time, he insisted was the only campaign donation he had received.
Herbert Hoover’s dog, King Tut, is the only real guard dog on the list of presidential pooches. It was rumored at the time that Hoover and his fellow Republicans thought that King Tut was related to Egyptian royalty and would help the administration avoid the depression. That didn’t work out too well because the King’s growl scared off any economist who got close to the president.
But, regardless of breed, this time of year, especially, Washington is a great place to walk a dog, presidential pooch or not, or to engage in any outdoor activity. The weather can be beautiful with days in the 70’s where a game of golf is not out of the question. Yet there is the crispness in the air that would encourage you to organize a touch football game as well.
As I recall that was the practice of the Kennedy clan who used to throw their spirals on the White House lawn. Since President Obama, I understand, is more partial to basketball which can be played inside or outside, maybe we will have a revival of the annual competition between Republicans and Democrats on the hardwood instead of the diamond.
After the recent elections, the Democrats would welcome a victory of any sort. Things don’t seem to be going too well for them right now. I guess that may be one reason for President Obama’s frequent flights from the city. Another may be his anticipated need for frequent flyer miles in the future if he plans to continue his current frequency of travel. Does Air Force One offer any bonus miles for holiday travel?
But frequent flyer miles are not all they’re cracked up to be or even used to be. Now it’s often use them or lose them.
Unfortunately, trying to use frequent flyer miles for holiday travel — especially Thanksgiving — takes a lot of advance notice, if possible at all.
That was our experience. When I went online to see if I could book with miles I could almost hear the laughter emanating from the websites.
So we bit the bullet and paid the fare (which was hardly fair). But at least we were earning more frequent flyer miles in the event we ever scheduled a flight far enough ahead of time.
After all, being with family, particularly at Thanksgiving, is priceless.
To be there or not to be there was never really the question.